Monthly Archives: March 2016

Chrome-flections: Canvas & SeeSaw

I am just about to end my 6 weeks into my 1:1 pilot and I thought I would take a moment and reflect on my experience with Canvas (our learning management system LMS) and SeeSaw (an online digital portfolio).  Before the 1:1 pilot had started, I had been using Seesaw since October. I have been using Canvas for 5 weeks.

Canvas LMS

What I Love

  • Course Creation
    • easily hits substitution component on SAMR model
  •  Grading
    • Create rubrics that make grading a breeze
    • When grading submission simply click on score, then automatically totals points/percent
    • Can leave comments and attach files to provide feedback to students
    • students can resubmit assignments
  • Discussion boards
    • can set up so students can only see feed after first submission
    • when you grade you see all of their comments on one screen
  • Differentiation
    • Create courses and you can choose students to invite
    • I created book club for one of my second graders who is reading at an 11.2 level
    • Love the idea of using this as a way to do any type of differentiated group
    • Great Hub and opportunity for more
  • Support
    • Great videos and resources available to help you learn
    • Webinars are a must

What I’m Still Learning

  • Navigating the site
    • seems not very user friendly at first
    • constant practice is necessary
    • students struggle with navigating
      • does get easier but still wonder what this will look like with 2nd graders in August vs. now
      • with time things do get smoother but just something to keep in mind
  • Course Creation
    • must determine how you want to organize first
      • One whole course vs. each subject being a course
      • modules and file folders
      • can feel like a lot to wrap your mind around
    • feel this could set up teachers to create busy work at first because of the push to use program
  • Grading
    • K-2 has standards based report cards so our grades are not pushed into Powerschool.  While I’m starting to feel they don’t need to be, this makes Canvas less of a selling point for K-2 teachers.  Also will upper grade teachers change their mind of loving this option as they move toward standard based grading?
  • Time
    • creating courses can be time consuming depending on teacher
    • especially at first, it will require work outside of school day which I don’t mind but I know some teachers do
      • For the first 3 weeks, I worked on Canvas every night anywhere between 2-5 hours each time. I do tend to want things to be perfect, cutesy, and unique though
      • After week 4 and 5, I pulled back feeling that less was more and that I was creating unnecessary busy work
    • Will need to front load at the beginning and perhaps will get easier
  • Commons
    • not sure I know how to use to its fullest
    • not a lot out there for my particular grade
    • a lot of times files are blank templates
    • would love to see more examples of lessons created that hit all levels on SAMR model

Overall Reflection: I LOVE the grading component but that would probably be the one thing that I think would be hard to replace or that SeeSaw doesn’t have.  Has anyone else who is new to using an LMS noticed that they started creating tech lessons for technology sake?  I know that as you go through any process you modify and get better though. We will just have to keep that at the forefront so we don’t fall into that trap which could create a drop in community support.

***I do hope we are able to discuss use of the parent portal because I would be interested in what this looks like.


What I Love

  • Navigating the site/app
    • kid friendly
    • easy to use
    • less to click on
    • easy to organize
  • Set up
    • user friendly
  • Support
    • great resource page filled with ideas
    • Twitter chat every 2nd and 4th Thursday night at 6pm CST
    • Free hands on webinars
  • Portfolio Based
    • can upload photos, videos, drawings, notes, and links
    • Students can take a picture of learning, record voice to explain and draw over it as well
    • showcase student learning in easy format
    • promotes reflection
    • hits more components of SAMR model
  • Grading
    • supports K-2 standard based grading system due to portfolio based setup
  • Parent Access
    • parents can comment and like their child’s work
    • student can then see that
    • opens up communication
    • strengthen’s home school connection

What I’m Still Learning

  • Grading
    • grades aren’t automatically calculated
    • can’t click on rubric and grade not determined for you
  • Course Design
    • I feel it isn’t designed to to this, doesn’t mean you couldn’t
    • Feel this lends itself more toward a digital portfolio
  • Google Drive
    • since hyper docs are my new favorite not too sure how it would work within SeeSaw.  I participated in a webinar recently where it said you can save digital creations from other apps, links, or PDFs and Google Drive was one of the ones mentioned.  I would need to explore this more thoroughly.

Overall Reflection: I really want to know if there is a way to link SeeSaw within Canvas.  At one of the Canvas webinars I attended, I learned you can link to an electronic portfolio but I am just not sure how to do that.  While I feel there are elements of Canvas that are similar to SeeSaw, I feel SeeSaw can feel bit more kid friendly.  I did really enjoy the SeeSaw webinar that shared lots of amazing ideas. It had me rethinking how I currently use Seesaw.

Final Thoughts

I feel both allow for students to create and submit their learning!  I feel both have great features and both have things I’m still learning or am not a huge fan of.  The problem is there will never be the perfect one just like there will never be the perfect community.  It will all depend on what the teacher brings to the table.  While I may struggle with one area that might not be the case for everyone.  It will be vital to find out where people’s strengths lie, what people are struggling with, and keep communication on going.

I will be curious to hear how other teachers in our pilot feel and what their experiences have been.  What does your school use and what positives and negatives have you seen with it?


Chrome-flections Weeks 4-5!

These last two weeks have been very different in terms of success.  Week 4 I felt like I hit my groove with using these devices but Week 5 brought feelings of failure, stress, and oh no am I using technology as busy work??  Part of this I feel lies in my need to have everything run smoothly and practically perfect.  If there is anything this pilot has taught me it’s that fail means first attempt in learning.  It is OK to fail.  Now the learning and growing process can begin.  I thought I would take a moment to divulge why these weeks felt so different.

Week 4:
By this point in our pilot, students have established routines and we have procedures that have been tweaked and practically perfected.  Logging in has become a breeze, students know when to get devices, where to store them, and are quicker at finding what they need. Students have used Canvas (LMS: learning management system) and are familiar with the set up and organization.  Typing skills have improved thus boosting their familiarity of the keyboard.

During this week, I made sure to infuse more mini lessons throughout the day.  I have become a fan of Google Docs as a way to make interactive lessons where students can move at their own pace.
Setting Exploration Google Doc
Fraction Investigation Google Doc
(these would be the 2nd and 3rd Docs we have done!)

I noticed that students were having trouble with managing their time, so I instantly delivered a mini lesson teaching them where to start, where to click, how to manage their tabs, and how to record their thoughts while they watched the videos.  We were using post-its but they were getting lost and misplaced.  Students now use their writing journal as a way to record items they want to remember and then use that to help them fill out the independent component of their Google Doc.  Introducing the notebook was a game changer.  Students then didn’t have to go from the video to the Google Doc and it made it easier for them to remember what they wanted to say.  It also introduced a way for students to revise their thinking when they went to type.

Students were given a 2 week time period to complete and submit the above Google Docs and were encouraged to use lessons taught throughout the week as a way to help them.  I also made sure to monitor student work by making myself present and available for students who needed guidance.

Week 5:

The week started out strong, but I slowly realized a couple of things.

  1. Students were submitting assignments that were either missing components, had incorrect sentences, and or were completely submitting the wrong document altogether.
  2. Students loved watching the videos but were stuck in a loop of just that and not recording their learning on the actual Doc itself.
  3. Students were not using the rubric as a way to check to make sure they have completed all of the assignment.
  4. Students knew the due date was approaching and gave up when a problem would arise.  Instead of trying other things or asking a peer, they immediately wanted me to fix it or they guessed.

This then caused a million and one thoughts to pop through my head.  Had I expected too much?  Were there too many steps?  Were the assignments setup in a way students would fail?  Is it because of their age?  Why are their writing skills regressing when they type?  Did I just create a bunch of busy work so they were using the device or was it really enhancing their learning? Are students too distracted by other students watching the same videos so they are unable to concentrate? Is it a time management problem, an assignment problem, a device problem, or a technology problem?  Or is that how it will be at first so maybe less is more in the beginning?  Maybe I did too much too soon?

Oy. Needless to say that is a lot for one person to think about but a great opportunity to reflect non the less. Friday left me feeling completely defeated.

On Saturday, I participated in a free Webinar through SimpleK12 on how to use Chromebooks in the classroom.  At first I thought this might stress me out even more but it actually did the opposite.  One of the presenters  was asked her number 1 piece of advice for people going 1:1 for the first time.  She said, try everything and get yourself familiar with what you’re asking the kids to use and do.  Her example was to use a Google Form to figure out who is coming to a party and what they are bringing.  Basically find a way to infuse it into your daily life.  That is still you practicing how to use a tool.  We have to be the students and we have to explore too.  You will fail but you are learning as you fail.

This started me thinking, even if last week was a complete failure on the surface, maybe more learning was happening then I thought.  I then made a list of what my students were doing at any on point throughout the week and came up with the following:
-naming a Google Doc
-making a copy of a Google Doc
-practicing using a Google Doc
-navigating a Goolge Doc and YouTube in a safe manner
-recording their observations
-practicing their typing skills
-learning about setting and fractions in a different way
-collaborating with their peers
-navigating our LMS
-submitting assignments
-learning the importance of time management
-familiarizing themselves with what keys to push to correctly punctuate and capitalize a sentence
-navigating Google Drawings
-learning what tools will give them the picture they want
-how to insert a Google Drawing in the correct place
-how to check spelling using their touch screen feature

OK. So maybe not as bad as a I felt.  Is there room for improvement? YES! If and when we move forward with a 1:1 roll out we will have to keep this in mind when communicating with teachers, students, board, administration, and families.  It will take time.  This is a learning curve for everyone.  But anything worth doing is worth doing well and anything done well will take time. The amount of rigor that is involved with using technology still shocks me on a daily basis.  This is hard.  Do I think it is impossible? No.

While sharing my woes, something was mentioned that maybe students can’t do this.  Maybe they can’t, but maybe they just can’t do this yet.  And that’s where good teaching needs to step in.  Also as this rolls out throughout the district, each grade will notice an increase in skills.  It will get easier as it becomes more familiar.  I feel that with anything new you will have ups and downs throughout the process.  There is nothing wrong with high expectations as long as students are given the tools to reach them.

Alright week 6, I have a new plan. (Thanks of course goes to my teaching partner Kelsie who continuously keeps me in check and reminds what to focus on.)

Less is more.  I just went through all of my courses and eliminated pages or assignments that were busy work or unnecessary.  I also limited the amount of assignments kids are responsible for within a week.  Thanks to a coworkers suggestion, I created checklist for students to use as way to manage their time while working through a Google Doc.  I made links that made copying a Google Doc easier thus saving instructional time. I also want to brainstorm ways to incorporate the technology in a more seamless fashion and not so rigid.

Phew! Here’s to an open mind, a deep breath, and a fresh outlook on week 6!

Success & Failure


Leaving a Positive Digital Footprint!

Piloting a 1:1 classroom has been a dream for me! I cannot even begin to express how giddy it makes me on a daily basis.  I love the idea of creating a glass classroom where collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking can happen on a more global level.  I feel lessons now have the rigor the common core and the education system requires but in a way that is fun and engaging for kids.

I know what you are thinking.  That sounds great but what happens when a child misbehaves and the device is involved?  How do you take away or limit the time spent on a device when the whole point of being 1:1 is using said device?  Do not get me wrong, face to face communication and pencil paper skills are still important and are vital to a balanced life long learner.  However, if the punishment is always no device for you do this worksheet instead, are we sending the right message?  Are we creating a society who when faced with a digital citizenship, cyber-bullying, or device care issue will know how to fix their mistake and learn from it?

As a teacher and a mom, I know the natural reaction is to take it away.  Does this mean then for every lesson you create digitally, a backup must be created that could be used in case a behavior issue arises?  While I’m all about putting in the work to do something well, I’m also all about working smarter not harder.  Should a teacher have a back up plan in case of a technology or internet break down?  Yes. Should a teacher have to create a paper and pencil or “old school” version of every single lesson on a device? Oh boy. Teachers would be burn out in the first week of a 1:1 roll out.

So what is the answer?  I don’t know that is that simple yet.  However, I do think there are alternative arrangements that can allow for students to be taught important social emotional skills in a safe learning environment.  Why not take the opportunity when they are young and they are surround by trusted adults to teach students how to behave when it comes to using a device or the internet.  This way we can create students who are capable of leaving productive and positive digital footprints.

I feel an important first step is creating a list of expectations.  This can be done in a way that is comfortable for the teacher’s style but the more of a group effort it is, the more buy in.  We used expectations our school had created for iPads, our student handbook, and my student’s ideas to create a list of expectations.  This was a great classroom meeting topic and brought up some great discussion points.  After the meeting and a consensus of the final product, everyone signed it.  A copy hangs in our classroom and a copy  was sent home to all of the parents.


I then took these expectations and converted them to a Chromebook reflection sheet.  I wanted a way to document broken expectations in a manageable way that would be able to communicate with families what I had witnessed at school.  When a situation arises where one of these is broken, they select the expectation(s) that apply and reflect on the following: what they choose to do, what they should have done and how they will prove they can handle this the next time.  I sign it, it goes home for a parent to sign it, and then is returned the next day.  Here is the reflection sheet I created: Chromebook Reflection

As soon as the reflection sheet was introduced, I felt students understood the seriousness of the issue even more.  They didn’t want to have to explain to their families that a unique opportunity our classroom had been given was something they were taking for granted.  What I am trying to be proactive about is should there be a set number of reflection sheets before another step is taken?  Or do I just continue to use these and base it on a case to case basis?  I also am keeping in mind that anything new makes it much easier to manage because of the excitement level.  That could wear off, so then I feel as a teachers, it is our job to keep that drive and excitement at the forefront.  When students are engaged in the experience, behavior problems lesson or disappear completely.

Another alternative I have found to be effective is instead of typing in TodaysMeet, Google Docs or a website, students who break expectations have to write their responses instead.  Students know where to grab writing paper if they are prompted and we can continue on with the lesson.  I also have had students sit in a designated spot and have a required check in before posting, submitting or sending anything over the internet.  This way they are still able to practice the digital skill but they have more of a guided and monitored approach.  The goal of course being to achieve digital independence that I would expect of a second grader.

What do you do though when cyber-bullying or misuse of the internet occurs?  The pilot team discussed setting certain internet filters that would still allow a student to use the device and the internet to complete lessons, but their freedom would be restricted until a time when they were able to handle it.  For example a junior in high school might get the same filter as a K-2 student until they could prove they were able to handle the freedoms that come with being a more experienced digital citizen.

One of the most interesting social emotional conversations that has come out of this pilot for me is students critiquing others ideas, typing, writing, or spelling.  For some reason once students were reading the words of others on a screen, it became easier to poke fun of or overly criticize their ideas.  It made for a great lesson on how typing is not as easy as writing.  There is a lot more thinking involved.  You have to know where the keys are, type them correctly, and sometimes press multiple keys to get what you need.  We then acted out scenarios, practiced kind words to say, and discussed ways to disagree that were appropriate.  I feel this is where some teachers might give up all together.  However, I kept at it.  I changed the way I monitored postings, circulated the room more frequently, checked in more often, and celebrated success.  I feel by providing students with what it should look like and then giving the opportunity to directly apply this skill, has been important.  I feel teachers know this but for some reason once technology is involved, we assume they don’t need as much guidance.  The directions are there usually in audio and or video form.  Why on Earth can’t they figure it out on their own?  We have to teach them.  We have to lead them through it and we have to fail several times in the process.

Tonight I created a playlist on my classroom’s YouTube Channel dedicated to digital citizenship: My plan moving forward, is to introduce students to these new resources and discuss the idea of leaving a positive digital footprint.  In order to get families on board, I created a homework assignment inspired by Pinterest.  Students will think about the positive digital footprint they hope to leave 15 years from now. They will make a list with their families and bring it to school where we will create some “digital footprints”.  Check out the blog post that sparked it all:

Digital Footprint Homework Assignment

Social emotional skills involving technology are extremely important and often overlooked.  We also have to remember taking away the device, while possibly solving the problem temporarily, might not help them develop skills to fix it later in life.  What plans could we have in place to help students learn the importance of being a mature digital citizen?  Will there be times when a device must be taken away?  Absolutely.  I think we just have to be open to the fact that maybe that shouldn’t be the first gut reaction.  Just like we teach students to interact with friends on the playground, we need to teach them how to interact with students on the digital playground as well.  If we only teach them how to interact on this digital playground without the tools to do it, it will take longer to sink in.

Better readers become better readers by reading. When a student struggles with reading, we put plans, procedures, and small group work in place to support those learners.  They are given more guided or one on one support until they are able to take off with a book!  So why not do the same when teaching digital citizenship or social emotional skills involving technology? Better digital citizens become better digital citizens by practicing and applying digital citizenship skills.  When students struggle with this what type of plans, procedures, and small group work can we add in to support these learners?

What do you do to help your students leave a positive digital footprint?

digital citizen